For my Foundations of Information Technology class.

Posts tagged ‘Halifax Public Library’

Halifax Public Library – Social Bookmarking

Screenshot of the HPL's search screen.

The HPL has incorporated social bookmarking and tagging into their new library catalog and search system. They are using a fancy new search system called Discover which is powered by Aquabrowser. Discover makes use of Aquabrowser’s many useful tools like the dynamic word cloud that suggests closely related terms, alternative spellings, translations, and more. IT is a powerful one box search tool and it includes an advanced search function as well for those users who have a good idea of what they are looking for. As interesting as the Aquabrowser system is, it is not, in itself, social bookmarking or blogging and therefore off topic for this blog. If you would like to know more about Aquabrowser check out their site.

The HPL catalog has adopted social bookmarking. Each record has a section where free-text tags can be added as well as a link to a variety bookmarking sites like Delicious. he main record for an item has a section that displays all the tags that have been added to that record and how many times that tag was added to that particular record.

Who gets to tag records? The link to tag records is located right under the tag list on the record but it is password protected. A user has to log into their library account to be able to tag a record. Only library staff and users can tag records. Who does tag records? There is no indication as to which user created which tags, nor is there anything on the site stating when the catalog started using tags. Some records have more than 20 tags, while many records have no tags at all. It seems reasonable to me that library staff started the tagging and possibly continue to do so with new records but older records are left to users to tag, or until a staff member has an interest in that record.

In the materials for this course our instructor discussed the University of Pennsylvania’s Library and how they are using tags. The staff of the library and our instructor highlighted how tagging was not a substitute for the catalog but can increase usability and help professionals about users’ language in relation to the catalog’s controlled vocabulary. That holds true when it comes to the HPL’s catalog. Not all records in the HPL catalog are tagged so if a user was searching only by tags many materials would be missing. I did a search for the tag “ghosts” and got 2585 results. When I searched “ghosts” as a keyword I got 5577 results. The difference isn’t just due to untagged records. When the catalog is searched for just tags, it only searches for that particular tag, when a keyword search is performed it searches for the entered word as well as common synonyms and forms. In the case of “ghosts” it also searches for “ghost”, “specters”, and “phantoms.”

Cases where I found the tags to be very useful is when a book might not be explicitly about ghosts, it is not a important enough theme in the book to make it into the subject headings for that record, but a user found it important enough to include it as a tag. This is especially true for fiction. Catalogers don’t have the time to read through every item in the catalog. Tagging allows users who have read the material and who may have a better understanding of the material to include tags that are important but didn’t make it into the subject headings.This can help users find what they are looking for by giving users more information about the material right in the record. I really like this idea.

The other form of social bookmarking that HPL has incorporated into their catalog is socail bookmarking websites. When a record from the catalog is displayed there is a link to a variety of social bookmarking sites such as Delicious, Digg, and Y! Bookmarks. This makes it very easy for users to bookmark records and share them with others. They can also link the records to various social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. Because the bookmarking is done on outside sites the library catalog has not yet included bookmarking annotations, tags, or links into the displayed record like the University of Pennsylvania’s library has, but it is still a good way to facilitate users sharing information and likes with other users. At the very least it gets information about the library’s holding to a wider audience.

Halifax Public Library – The Reader Blog

As I said in my About page I want to look at libraries I have used or visited for my blog. So first I went to my hometown library page, the Whitehorse Public Library. This is an extremely boring library website housed within the territorial government’s website. Because it is part of the Government’s website it has to have the same boring layout and poor navigation. It doesn’t look like they have made any attempts to incorporate Web 2.0 tools. Disappointing but not surprising.

Second I looked at the Halifax Public Libraries main website. As far as I can find they maintain one blog called The Reader which is created and maintained by the Readers’ Services Staff. The stated purpose of the blog is “ to create a forum for book news and related discussion among leisure readers. A place for Halifax leisure readers to interact with their library and the larger community of leisure readers.” The blog appears to be updated every day by a variety of library staff. Most of the posts are book recommendations focused around a particular topic or new releases at the library. The occasional post goes more into depth on a particular item or a certain activity going o at the library. These are the post that I find the most interesting but the book recommendations are useful too.

So the blog is updated regularly with new material.It is presented in casual language but is well written and entertaining. It provides useful reading recommendations and includes information about upcoming events, great. But what about the stated mission of creating a discussion? Is the library interacting with their users through this medium? Not really. I scanned through several weeks of postings and saw very few comments, 3 comments in 4 weeks or 27 posts. And two of those were from the same person on the same posting. This blog is mostly a one way discussion and resembles traditional, top down media more than the collaborative form of media which is such a big part of Web 2.0.

This blog is meeting some of the goals of library blogging as set out by Sharyn Heili in her Libraries and Librarians Rock blog. They are reaching out to their users, spreading the news, and getting more staff involved in spreading the word an marketing their services (as can be seen by the list of contributors to the blog). But they are also missing some of the points. They have added interactivity and say they want to promote discussion, but it’s not being used. They may want to listen to the needs and wants of their users, but it’s hard to listen to nothing. I did find one comment where a reader commented that s/he couldn’t get one of the books recommended in the post. The author got back within two days saying apparently the book had gone missing but that he had ordered a new copy and it would be available for holds within a day. So the possibility of interactivity and responding to users if there, it’s just not being utilized.

Perhaps the blog would be utilized better if it was easier to find of the HPL website. The link for the reader blog is at the bottom of the home page under Readers. A link to the blog is not included under the What’s New section which is more prominently displayed higher on the page. The blog also has to compete with the library’s twitter feed for attention. The twitter feed seems to be a higher priority for HPL as the feed is featured more prominently on the homepage and is of course updated much more frequently. They could also try generating more interest by creating a new blog for teen readers and featuring it on the HPL teen site and linking it to the current reader blog.

Next post, I’m going to have a look at HPL’s catalog and their use of tagging and the aqua browser! Stay tuned!